A black coyote was spotted near Lubber Run this week, and she may have babies.
Although sightings of the shy dog are relatively rare, the Arlington Forest coyote’s dark fur is somewhat rarer. Her coloring is what helped the Animal Welfare League of Arlington identify that she was not new to the area.
An Arlington Forest resident called AWLA, which runs the county’s animal control operation, to report a sighting Monday, and said the coyote had cubs in tow, though officers did not couldn’t locate her or the young people to confirm. On Tuesday, an ARLnow reader, Amy Cocuzza, filmed her in the neighborhood.
Cocuzza contacted a USDA wildlife specialist, who said the Arlington Forest coyote’s dark fur is rare but not uncommon. Eastern coyotes have enormous color variation.
AWLA animal control chief Jennifer Toussaint told ARLnow that the Arlington Forest coyote was not the only black coyote she had seen in Arlington. She first saw it on Highway 110 near Memorial in 2013. She likened the unusual coloration — known as melanism — to that of the more common black squirrel.
She said the coyote Cocuzza saw is likely female and they learned of her in Arlington Forest last year.
Previous sightings of coyotes reported by ARLnow have all been of a gray or tan-colored canine. A coyote has been spotted wandering the Fairlington area several times in 2020. Coyotes have also been seen wandering along Washington Blvd and in Potomac Overlook, Lubber Run and Cherrydale Regional Park. In 2014, a coyote was hit by a car near Arlington National Cemetery.
Toussaint called coyotes “highly adaptable opportunists” and said they thrive living near people in suburban and urban environments like Arlington where it’s easy to forage for food — enjoying the food for pets or discarded garbage. But she added that the presence of a coyote, which can be active day or night, is not alarming. In fact, there are some benefits like free rodent control.
“Urban coyotes are born in our neighborhoods and are generally familiar with us, our pets and our routines,” she said. “Once in a while it may be necessary to remind a curious coyote to beware of people, especially if someone has been feeding them, which is neither advisable nor legal.”
Toussaint recommends “hazing” techniques, such as clapping, raising your voice, whistling, or shaking an aluminum can with pennies inside. She said that while coyotes pose no risk to humans, they should never be handled and pets should be monitored closely and kept up to date on rabies vaccinations.
“We don’t see a lot of interactions or conflicts between coyotes and people or pets, but when we do, it’s usually because someone has been startled, so it’s a good idea. to practice hazing techniques before allowing a pet into your yard, as well.” she said.
Arlington Director of Natural Resources Alonso Abugattas writes that “the eastern coyote is larger than the western ones, about the size of a border collie or even a German shepherd, often between 45 and 55 pounds”, with males generally being larger than females.
The USDA specialist suggested to Cocuzza that the black coyote may wander because it’s mating season, and “it tends to be bolder and wander around then.”
Hats off to Amy Cocuzza